A survey from The Hartford on the hidden cost of poor time management shows how a single employee can cost their company $62.50 an hour by just spending 15 minutes of their work time browsing online. Regardless of an employee’s role, these numbers easily put into perspective how important time management is to a business’ productivity. In this article, we’ve asked experts to share with us their very own time management techniques, tips, and tools that every small business can adopt to improve their bottom line.
Here are 26 time management tips from the pros.
1. Manage Your Phone, Don’t Let Your Phone Manage You
Nick Glassett, Co-Founder, Origin Leadership Group
I started small with this concept, and then have grown it over time. It began with turning off the sound and vibration notification for my email. On an iPhone, the sound notification for email is a distraction that you just don’t need. A little later, I decided to kill the badges notification too because that little red circle with the number in it is just there to nag me into touching the email icon. I use a method called “batching” to manage my email and text messages. I check it at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm. Social media rarely gets checked now that notifications are off, and that’s the way it should be. All you do is go into settings, and turn off alerts for things that are non-essential. Start small, and declutter your notifications just a bit, and then evolve it from there. Now your phone will be used on your time, not everyone else’s. This lets you stay so much more focused by dramatically reducing the distractions. And the crazy thing is…you’ll barely notice!
2. Track Your Tasks on a Kanban Board
Naya Tsoukala, Digital & Influencer Marketing, Gmelius SA
In most small business settings employees have to deal with diverse tasks on a daily basis, from answering customer email queries to sales prospecting and project management. The best way for a small business employee to optimally allocate his time and efforts is for the whole team to adopt an urgency-bound task management system (prioritization of tasks according to their importance for the smooth everyday run of the business) that allows flexibility and real-time collaboration between members. Kanban boards are a concrete example of such system. If you explicitly define which tasks need to be done and in which order (keep the 80/20 Pareto Principle in mind), your employees will know how to allocate their time better and more efficiently without wasting in time in trivialities.
Project management softwares can dramatically improve employee productivity by ensuring they make better use of their time. Check out Fit Small Business’ article on 8 of the best free project management tools available and see what works best for you.
3. Automate Your Sales and Marketing Tasks with Zoho CRM
Keri Lindenmuth, Marketing Manager, The Kyle David Group, LLC
One resource our company uses that expertly streamlines our tasks and helps our team free up time that can then be allocated elsewhere is Zoho CRM. This tool is extremely useful for sales and marketing teams. It has an array of automated features, such as follow-up reminders, workflows, and personalized email chains. These are daily tasks our team always does; however, organizing leads, their statuses, and their communications can take up a large portion of a day, leaving little time for other important tasks. This automation frees up time, allowing our team to work more on sales, making them faster and smoother. Integration with other tools like reporting tools and invoicing programs add extra elements to CRM, ensuring all of the important data on leads and sales is located in one place. These are small changes that lead to huge boosts in efficiency and time management.
4. Plan Your Day or Plan to Fail
Rusty Koss, CEO and Owner, Koss Creative Brands
Going to work without a plan is planning to fail. Pick a dedicated time following your work day to plan out your next day. Go hour by hour starting with your most important task. This will give you a mental picture of your upcoming day and allow you to get back on track in case you’re interrupted with important/urgent tasks.
5. Declutter Your Brain Each Morning
Tess Ausman, CEO, CLT Leads
We carry so many reminders in our heads – both personal and professional – and it stifles our productivity. Each morning, whether it’s when you first get up or when you sit down at your desk, take five minutes to list out everything you think you have to do for the day. Once it’s all down, separate personal from professional (color coding is my favorite). Then, the magic begins. Using the important/urgent approach, ask yourself two questions: Is this important to my day? Is it urgent that it gets done by the end of the day? This quickly separates all the things you think you have to from the things that must be done, which then increases your productivity because you’re laser focused and ready to tackle the day with what matters.
6. Lead a Daily Strategy Session Every Morning
Dr. Ty Belknap, CEO, MyCoach.Life
Morning strategy sessions are a great way to help employees stay on track. Whether it’s a five-minute strategy session each day or a 15-minute session once a week, they can help with employee time management. Use this time to set employee expectations. Rather than just giving out tasks, ask your employees how they will use their time this day or week. But make keep it quick. The goal is accountability. Don’t make it a scolding session, use it as an opportunity to see which employees need more time management training.
7. Practice Time Blocking
Ian McClarty, President, PhoenixNAP Global IT Services
I start by creating a schedule for each task I need to complete for that day. I break my tasks down throughout the day into 30 or 60-minute time blocks. This establishes deadlines and puts time limits on jobs, making it an automatic organizer. I have been using this for over two years and found my productivity has dramatically increased. Tools I use: Evernote is great. Since I am always on the go and most of the time I do not have my laptop with me, I installed the application on my phone. It’s a great way to take down notes, share with employees, and make important documents on the go. It’s great because it has features similar to Microsoft Word. I also like to use Unroll me. It’s an application where I can take note of all my monthly subscriptions into one email. I honestly wouldn’t know what I would do without this tool because I have a lot of subscriptions which I use for my business and majority of these are cloud drive accounts.
8. Adapt Your Time to Your Location
Katherine King, Intercultural Management Consultant, Invisible Culture
Time management in the U.S. may be different than in another country. Therefore, when you are a newcomer or in a foreign territory, slow down. You’ll get there faster if you do.
What to do while slowing down? Build relationships, observe and listen more than speak, build context about what was going on before you arrived (in some countries this will only evolve once the relationship is built), learn the organizational chart, know who you are communicating with, their rank and what success looks like for them and avoid judging others that seem like they are not working because how to get things done in another country often looks different than in your own.
9. Avoid Self-Blame and Negativity in the Workplace
Marina Pilipenko, Marketing Manager, actiTIME
Be positive. There will be ups and downs in your time management efforts. Try to stay positive even when things are not going the way you planned. Self-blaming won’t do any good but will suck your energy and determination. And when you accomplish something that requires some time management skill give yourself praise.
10. Give Employees a ‘To Don’t’ List
Stephen Davies, Time Management Expert & Speaker, The Time Edge
Since the recession of 2008, a vast proportion of small businesses have reacted to a fear of overhead costs by cutting administrative resources. This means that most of the people in the company are working below their pay grade by doing tasks that could be handled by a less expensive resource. The best way to identify this is to help each staff member identify the value of their time and have them create a “To Don’t List” of all the things they do that are below this value. When all of these are looked at and put together, it can create a job description for an inexpensive administrative employee and free everybody else up to spend more of their time working on things that bring value to the company.
11. Make a List of Daily Goals
Anthony Bart, Digital Marketing Consultant, The Bart Organization
Write down your goals for the day before you start working in the morning. As an entrepreneur, it’s great to have a list of items that you’d like to accomplish for the day, the week, the month, and the year. One of the best feelings is checking these items off your list. It creates a feeling of accomplishment and helps you continue to push forward in your efforts to be successful.
12. Minimize White Space on Your Calendar
Sarah Elles Boggs, Realtor Associate, Sarahelles.com
The most effective tips I can think of is to start your day with planning and put everything into your calendar, even family time. White space on your calendar is ineffective time. Dead time. I wake up each morning and review my to-do list and agenda for the day. If an event isn’t in my agenda, it doesn’t exist. No exceptions. I have slots in my calendar for everything, including following up with active clients, prospecting for new clients, meetings and playdates for my son. If there is a conflict, I have to weigh whether or not I can move the appointment or if it’s worth it to cancel it. Marketing (finding new business) and current client follow-up times never get cancelled.
13. Recognize that Time Management Works Differently for Each Person
Jerry Haffey Jr., President of Business Development, Ambrosia Treatment Center
In my experience in business, the best time management tip is that time management is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There is no universal way for each person to manage time effectively and efficiently, so forcing people into a system only results in high turnover. With this being true, I find it essential to work with my team members individually with the goal of devising unique plans based on their strengths and limitations. Some people thrive in perfectly calm and quiet environments while other appreciate energy. By uncovering the needs of my employees, I can set them up for success in a way that benefits my business as well as their own lives and happiness.
14. Limit Meeting Times to 30 Minutes or Less
Eng. Cristian Rennella, CEO & Co-Founder, elMejorTrato.com
After nine years of work and having tried many different strategies for time management, I can assure you that the best strategy is to minimize your meetings (and if you can eliminate them, even better). In our small business, we decided that each employee could only attend one meeting for 15 minutes per day and have only five people attending it. This helped us to improve our time management achieving an increase in productivity of 21.4%. We can also reference this article published by The Economist which showed how a manufacturing company was able to save the equivalent of 200 employee salaries by limiting meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and seven team members.
15. Before Anything, Track Your Time
Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager, Maple Holistics
In order to know what’s what, and have some hard, cold, solid data to contend with, you need to track your time. Quite literally. Whether using an app, a pen and pad, or spreadsheet software, you need to know what it is you are doing with your time, before you can manage it properly. Many times, a strong and capable leader leads by example, so if you want your employees to use their time wisely, start with yourself.
Looking for the best time management tool for your business? Read up on the best employee scheduling software for 2018 in this Fit Small Business article.
16. Use Pomodoro Extension
Ciara Hautau, Marketing Coordinator & Executive Assistant, Fueled
Juggling two jobs, I HAVE to have good time management skills as lack of these skills would ultimately result in failure to do my job correctly. One of the best productivity tools I use to help manage my time most effectively is Pomodoro Assistant Chrome Extension. This is a Chrome extension that helps you properly manage tasks and breaks, so you don’t get sucked into one task for too long. Simply set the timer for how long you want to be working at tasks (they recommend 25 minutes) and the Pomodoro Assistant will send you notifications on when to take a break or switch gears. It also keeps track of historical data, so you can see how you’re performing.
17. Harness the Power of the Zeigarnik Effect
Halelly Azulay, Founder & CEO, TalentGrow LLC
Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik discovered that we tend to remember unfinished tasks much better than completed ones. This is because our mind seeks resolution and closure to interrupted tasks. These ‘open loops’ cause our mind to ping us about them, over and over again. Try using the Zeigarnik effect to battle procrastination: if you find yourself procrastinating on starting something, do something – anything – that gets you started on that task (even if it’s the easiest part of the work or a trivial aspect of the project). You’ll be much more likely to finish it since your mind will see it as an open loop and cause you to crave closure.
18. Model and Teach the Art of Nibbling
Nan Russell, Author & Speaker, NanRussell.com
Nibbling is a highly effective way to make things happen utilizing very small time allotments, as well as a way to prevent or respond to procrastination, and increase personal motivation. It is a skill enabling parallel and completing tasks, obligations, and responsibilities to occur without ball-dropping. Nibbling is not a linear process or a start to finish approach. When you nibble, you make a task or project disappear or move it forward bit-by-bit in small chewable portions. When you think about an end product, it can seem overwhelming. But if you think about a nibble, it’s more doable. Nibbling looks like someone writing a novel two hours a night, or sorting to move in 30 minute intervals. It’s also a powerful motivator. Getting anything done increases the motivation to get more done.
19. Schedule Time to Work on Your Emails
Maura Thomas, Speaker, Trainer & Author, MauraThomas.com
Managing email requires both the right tools and the right mindset. There’s one deceptively simple idea about email that most people overlook. And because they do, they stay mired in email stress. Email is real work that takes real time. You can’t start managing email effectively until you begin leaving some time in your schedule to process it. Many people schedule their days heavily and somehow think that they’ll keep on top of email in the brief gaps between meetings and “real work.” A better way of managing email starts with acknowledging that email is “real work” just like any other task in your day. In other words, you can’t schedule yourself for back-to-back meetings and still expect to stay on top of your email (or, for that matter, get any other proactive work done).
20. Use an App to Get Off Social Media When Working Off Site
Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO, Cheek’d
One of my favorite productivity hacks comes with the help of an app called Stay Focusd. When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a ten-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.
21. Coach Employee Time Management Issues
Hamna Amjad, Community Manager, Ridester
Time management doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Like many other skills, you need to teach this skill to some of your employees. Find out why your employees are unable to manage their time effectively and then train them how to handle the time to be more productive. For instance, there are employees who find it hard to say no and consequently, work keeps on piling up. You need to teach them how to prioritize. Tell them to make a priority list each day of top five tasks which are more important and can’t be delayed so that they can do those first. If some employees are missing important meetings or deadlines. You need to have a one-on-one conversation with them to make sure that they are on the same page as you.
Be very clear about deadlines or meetings that can’t be missed. There are also employees who love doing too many things at once which can make them lose focus and not finish tasks on time and give the best results. Although multitasking is not a bad thing but there are times when a task needs full concentration. Teach them to eliminate distractions and handle one thing at a time.
22. Apply Attention Management in the Workplace
It is not necessarily time management that needs to be improved, but rather attention management. This new concept suggests that instead of trying to create efficiency through time management, you can focus on the attention you allocate to each project or person in order to give each project the time it deserves without distraction. Being able to pay better attention to individual projects will consequently improve your productivity. Attention management is a two-part concept; it’s your ability to deliberately dial in your focus when needed, and to choose wisely when deciding which tasks deserve that focus.
There are several ways you can improve your attention management, for instance with the help of apps like Todoist, or classes, such as the recently launched class on attention management by Mark Siskar, the Managing Director of Founder Institute, now available on the Skillshare platform.
23. Identify Your Time Bandits
Rita Schiano, Founder, Live a Flourishing Life
Poor time management is a habit that does not serve you. Like all habits, they are powerful and mold our behavior and our lives far more than we realize. For this exercise be self-reflective about your daily habits. For instance, do you set out to check your email, Twitter, Facebook page updates, and the myriad other apps on your phone and social media sites and suddenly find that ninety minutes has flown by? Do you set out to play fifteen minutes of online games “just to clear my mind” and suddenly three hours has passed you by? Meet your Time Bandits — those insidious time-wasters that steal time we could be using much more productively. Over the next five days, go about doing these activities as usual. Don’t make adjustments, do what you would typically do.
For example, let’s say you check Twitter or Facebook on a daily basis. Write down on the sheet the Time Bandit (for example, checking Facebook), note the start time, and note the end time. Do this for every activity (social media, email, games, television, etc.).
24. Focus on High Impact Activities
David Pike, Serial Entrepreneur & Author, The New Startup
Your time is your most valuable asset as a business owner. To maximize my time, I make sure I’m focusing on high-impact activities to grow the business. High-impact activities could include prospecting large clients or creating new partnerships while a low-impact activity would be performing your weekly bookkeeping. It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if you’re using your time effectively. In addition, I’ve found it helpful to create daily checklists to keep myself focused on what I want to accomplish each day
25. Be Aware of Your Natural Productivity
Suzanne Brown, Speaker & Author, Mom Power Movement
I look at time management as part of a formula for being more efficient. Productivity + time management + staying on task = being efficient with our time. I recommend taking advantage of your natural productivity. You want to be doing your most challenging work when you’re most productive and not simply checking off a lot of boxes on easy tasks that you can fit in throughout your day.Schedule a power hour during your most productive time to get your challenging or strategic work done at that time. And to make the most of that time, do a bit of prep work the night before so that you can hit the ground running and be productive from the beginning of that dedicated hour. If you’re not sure when you’re most productive, this might help. Take a few days over the course of a week or two when you don’t have meetings and see when you naturally hit your groove. You’ll be able to recognize when you’ve hit your stride in your day if you don’t have meetings to break up your time.
26. Empower Your Employees to Coordinate With Clients
Sam Pillar, CEO, Jobber
Often times, service techs are dispatched and routed by an office admin or business owner, and frequently feel like they’re “flying blind” when going to see a client. In many cases, a sales rep may have gone on-site or quoted the job being done, so they haven’t met the client in person before. Enabling the tech to build a relationship and communicate with the client – even a quick SMS or email that says “Hi, I’m your tech, I’m on my way to your location shortly” or “I’m stuck in traffic, but I promise I’m en route” does wonders for clients and for the techs. At the end of the job, being able to send an invoice to the client the moment the job is over, and providing proof (photos, parts used, etc.) immediately does wonders in building trust between your company and your client, and is far more efficient vs. waiting to invoice the job later on.
Beyond that – providing tools that enable a service provider’s clients to self-serve information is another great productivity hack. Having your clients be able to pay invoices or send work requests at any time helps communication outside of business hours, and reduces a lot of back and forth from the office to the client and back – which inevitably makes the business run better.
Bonus: Outsource simple but time-consuming tasks
Artis Rozentals, CEO, DeskTime
Today, doing everything in-house is inefficient and unnecessary. Here at DeskTime, we try to outsource whenever possible, which has proven to save hours of time for me and my team.
We started with outsourcing proofreading and article publishing to our blog – simple tasks that, according to our time tracker, took us up to 6 hours per month. Now, we also hire freelancers to do research, put together presentations and create infographics. As a result, we’re able to focus on higher-level goals, and as a team – get more done.
Over to You
Productivity is the lifeblood of every business so time management is considered a crucial skill that everyone in a company is expected to have. Using our 480 minutes a day wisely not only improves the company, but promotes our overall personal well being too.
Did we miss out on your favorite time management tips? Do you have any time management techniques that you find helpful? Share them with us in the comments!